Our 2018 Christmas Home


Let me start by saying that ten days ago while consumed with trying to finish our reading nook project, I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas decor. I had given up any hope that I’d be able to pull it off this year with no budget, time or energy.

But then Lowe’s reached out, asking if I’d like to share some easy, last minute holiday decorating ideas. And I thought about all the folks in my position, who can’t/don’t want to go all out on holiday decorating this year but still want a festive, cozy home.

I see you and I’m here for you, friends.

This year, I pulled my Christmas bin from storage and everything else needed was purchased in one quick shopping trip, and I spent just one day decorating. I played Christmas jazz, drank some egg nog and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Growing up in a home where Christmas was truly the most special and memorable time of the year, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me unless there’s at least some decorations in the house.

Even with our house nowhere near ‘completed’, I was able to easily add festive touches to the finished areas (living room, dining room and reading nook) and now I can’t help but smile when I walk into them.

These ideas are something that can be easily recreated with little time, money and effort (even if you haven’t started yet!) and in the end I think it’s so worthwhile.

Let’s start with the tree. The star of the show in any holiday display…

I chose this 7.5′ GE pre-lit tree after visiting my local Lowe’s and seeing it in person.  A pre-lit tree is a must for me (because who has time to unravel and perfectly place all those string lights?) and as you can imagine, I’m a little paranoid about the fire risk of a real tree.

The pine needles look and feel incredibly real, and it was easy to transport and set up (it comes in 3 sections). Another benefit of faux trees—the branches are pliable so you can arrange them to your desired fullness!

It went on sale for Black Friday and now it’s on clearance for another week—highly recommend checking this one out if you don’t have a tree yet! It looks lovely with the lights off too.

The ornaments were made using just two materials: ribbon and pinecones.

I used a few spools of ribbon (Lowe’s carries a similar style here) and followed a ‘how to make a perfect bow’ diagram on Pinterest. It’s easier than it looks! The pinecone ornaments were pulled from storage—they’re cinnamon scented with ribbon glued and tied into bows. Super simple and still smells wonderful after a few years…

For the gift wrap, I picked up a large roll of builder’s paper (aka painters paper aka kraft paper) and used leftover ribbon to dress them up, along with a clearance $3 faux berry stem.

I love how simple and classic this look is—you don’t need to go crazy with wrapping paper for beautiful results.

See those huge pinecones? Those were collected near my hometown in California, where the biggest trees in the world live. I hauled a bag of them all the way to Florida, and now I have a piece of California with me for the holidays.

With no fireplace to hang stockings, these heavy duty command hooks were the perfect solution:

I’ve been wanting to add real hooks on this wall but am hesitant to put holes in the mural. I was super excited to find these ones that look nice and can hold up to 5 pounds, so I may just get a few more and keep them there permanently.

I’ve had those stockings for years (not sure of the source) but I love these sweater knit + fur stockings from Lowe’s (for only $13!)

I haven’t shown much (at all) of our living room on the blog, but it’s slowly coming together! In the past week I added a rug, coffee table, lamp and mirror, and two chairs are scheduled to be delivered today.

I’ll do a post next week sharing all the sources and the design plan once the chairs arrive—stay tuned!

Adding wreaths to doors and windows are a must in my holiday decorating book, and these fresh wreaths are only $11:

I picked one up for the front door, living room window and reading nook window, and added my own red velvet ribbon.

Velvet has been the MVP of 2018 for me. Between ribbon, curtains, pillows, chairs and couches, I just can’t stop myself. Give me ALL THE VELVETS!

I mean, how perfect is this couch? (psst, you can check out my IG stories for some sources if you don’t want to wait for the next blog post!)

Neutral pillows + wreath + plaid throw = all you need for the living room.

A little brass won’t hurt either!

In the dining room, I made a centerpiece using a pre-lit wreath (pulled from storage) and a few white pillar candles. Easy peasy.

Who said you can’t make a mid-century tropical room feel like Christmas?

Sideboards are always fun to decorate. I pulled another faux garland out of storage, along with a couple trees, candles and brass candlesticks. Not sure of the original sources on these but I found this cute wooden tree set from Lowe’s, and a realistic looking 9′ pre-lit garland (I wish mine had lights!)

There’s also a super budget-friendly version for just $5—such a bargain! PS—you can download the JOY printable for free here.

The reading nook was updated with a window wreath, a few festive pillows + blanket, and a cozy sheepskin. The deer pillow is from years back and I don’t think they make it anymore, but you can pick up a similar one at Lowe’s.

And can’t forget the cat. Christmas is not complete without Susie! She’s studying for her MBC (Master of Black Cats).

And there you have it—budget-friendly, DIY holiday decorating done in a day!

It’s very doable, right? Hopefully this is encouraging to others in my situation this year. Even if your house is a still a work in progress, you can have a big impact with minimal effort, and enjoy the process too.

Happy December, and cheers to a wonderful holiday season!



Favorite Tools & Home Decor Guide: 2018 Edition

It’s that wonderful time of year where gift-giving is in full swing, and by request, I’ve rounded up my list of tried & tested tools and home decor favorites to help take the guesswork out of your shopping.

2018 has been quite the busy year for us, juggling multiple DIY/decorating projects over the past several months. After a long home improvement hiatus and a few big moves over the last couple years, I’ve recently had to rebuild the majority of my tool collection.

Eight years of DIYing have taught me that high quality tools (and using the right ones for the job) make all the difference in not only the success of a project, but your level of enjoyment and desire to stick with it and continue improving your skills.

With that in mind, I’ve focused on acquiring professional quality, highly rated tools that will last many years, and they’ve served us very well over the past several months.

If you’re looking to expand your tool collection (or someone else’s on your list) click below to see exactly what’s in our tool kit, and what I would recommend without hesitation:


I’ve rounded up everything we own/use onto an Amazon storefront (they make it super easy to shop and let’s face it, you can find basically everything ever made). I also added my camera gear/equipment, which is all I use for the ‘After’ photos, videos, and everything you see on my Instagram.

A few especially noteworthy items I can’t live without:

1. Our Dewalt drill, which gets the most use out of any tool we own

2. Our Dewalt miter saw, which can handle any trim/wood working/board cutting project we need

3. Our Black & Decker jigsaw, which is very beginner/user-friendly and has come in handy more times than we can count

4. Our Black & Decker mouse, which I use on essentially every wood working project, and you can’t beat the price!

5. My short angled paint brush—this has eliminated my need for painters tape and I’ll never use another brush again (sidenote, the Blue Hawk sold at Lowe’s is just as good)

If you go to my main storefront page, you’ll also see a “What’s in my home” list:

These are just a handful of items I own from Amazon (I’m sure there’s a lot more I haven’t thought of) but here’s a few worth calling out:

1. I’ve found the holy grail of bed pillows—these inserts are the fluffiest and fullest, and at just $12/pillow, I’ll never look back.

2. I can’t get enough of these $13 scarves. They’re my go-to accessory for both wearing and styling. Also, cat approved.

3. The buffalo check and textured black pillows in the photo above? My latest Amazon obsession. Several of you have asked about these and there’s so many color options, nice quality and insanely cheap. I’ll be ordering more colors soon!

4. My love for this wall mounted faucet runs deep. I’ve installed these in 4 out of my last 4 bathrooms, in both brass and black. You just can’t beat the style and $56 price tag.

5. I’ve also owned 4 of these jute rugs, in both bleached and natural. As long as you don’t mind the shedding, they’re a durable, low-maintenance staple that looks great in every room!

Outside of Amazon, I have to mention a few favorite new additions this year:

1. This memory foam mattress topper has to be the single greatest, most life changing purchase of the last several years (maybe even in history?) If your bed doesn’t feel like heaven when you crawl in, get one of these and thank me later. I’ve literally moved my office into the bed and spend hours here every day—it’s just too comfortable to leave.

2. Still in disbelief about the price on this massive, gorgeous chandelier. And it’s on sale for even less than I paid a few months ago!

3. I did a happy dance when I found these gold hooks for our laundry room—beautiful design and under $6!

Everything listed above are things I’ve used/lived with, had great experiences with personally and stand behind 100%. But there’s also a few new discoveries that I’ve saved to my Wish List for upcoming projects…

1. This brass sconce. Simple, classic perfection—and for $35! (Update: just found the same light on sale at Wayfair for $27!)

2.  This pendant is so pretty and unique. I’m thinking about using it in a bathroom remodel next month.

3. This plaid tile was love at first sight. I plan to use it in our upstairs guest bedroom in the new house. Stay tuned for the design plan!


And there’s just a little peek at what I’ve been using in my design boards lately. Next year is shaping up to be my busiest on record as far as house projects/room reveals go, so I’ve been spending a lot of time sourcing new materials and products, and I can’t wait to share those finds with you over the coming months!

I hope you found this short guide helpful, and as always I’m happy to answer questions if you need tool/home decor recommendations. Just leave a note in the comments below, shoot me a Facebook message or DM on Instagram.

Next up: my quick & easy holiday decor… coming in a few days!

DIY Window Bench Seat / Reading Nook


Now that we’ve got tiling, wallpapering, and crown molding under our belt here at the Riverside Retreat, we thought we’d take things up a notch and test our skills by building a custom bench seat/reading nook. Watch below to see what happened:

This video shows the highlights of this multiple week process, but as you can imagine, it was a lot more involved than what I could squeeze into 5 minutes. I’d consider this a medium-to-advanced level DIY project, and while there were times we thought we couldn’t pull it off, I’m so happy we stuck it out because the end result surprised us both!

One of the most challenging, but certainly most rewarding projects we’ve ever taken on. But that’s true for most things in life, isn’t it? 😉

With that preface, if you’re feeling confident to take your DIY skills to the next level, this tutorial is for you!

Here’s how the wall looked in this carport conversion when we moved in this past summer:

We intend to utilize this long narrow room (just off the living room) as a lounge/media/game room in this future vacation rental home. That back wall was basically dead space, and we liked the idea of adding another lounging area that would increase our guest sleeping capacity and provide much needed storage.

A built-in daybed/bench seat was the way to go, but there weren’t any standard sized cabinets or drawers that would fit perfectly. Custom was our only option!

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this project after a failed DIY drawer attempt in a laundry room years ago. I loved the idea of drawers and the way they looked/functioned, but I didn’t trust our ability to pull it off. Even though Lucas is a brand new DIY’er, he was confident we could make it work and agreed to take charge of the operation while I focused on finishing the dining room. I reluctantly agreed after several warnings about the complexity of this project and our short timeline, and a few days later he presented a spreadsheet with our build plans.

Instead of attempting to describe it, I’m just gonna attach those for you here…

These might be more confusing than helpful, but the exact measurements aren’t important since every bench will have to be custom made to fit your space.

Before we get into the steps, lets go over the materials and tools needed:

Materials Needed

Note that we ended up having leftovers of some materials and not enough of others—there were a few trips back and forth to Lowe’s during this process!

Tools Used

Something I’ve learned over the past decade of DIYing is that quality tools and materials matter. They’re the difference between a frustrating, failed project versus a positive experience and professional level results. This principle can be applied to many things in life, and it’s especially true here, so if you envision lots of DIY projects in your future: do yourself a favor—invest in high quality tools and use the right materials. That’s my tip of the day!

Okay, back to the tutorial!

I asked Lucas to write down each step as thoroughly as possible, since he was the man with the plan:

Feel free to direct any and all questions to @lucasleblanc 😉 <-no but really though, he’d be happy to answer your DMs.

I’ll keep my rundown brief so this post isn’t too long of a novel—we’ve got a lot to cover.

First: build the bench frame out of 2×4’s. This is a lot of cutting and measuring. We set up shop right there in the bonus room (thanks to our lack of a garage or covered porch) and after a couple weeks, even after nailing a sheet over the doorway, sawdust had spread to every corner of the house. We just can’t escape the mess!

The vertical supports were attached with two screws to the bottom of the horizontal pieces.

A square is critical to this process—especially since there are drawers involved. It allows you to mark straight lines and check your corners for 90° angles. Sidenote: make sure to check for square after every corner. If the drawer frames are even a couple degrees off, it’ll throw everything out of whack and they won’t close properly. We learned this the hard way!

The front and back rows were assembled first, with equal spacing for three drawers:

Then it was a matter of attaching all the other boards together like pieces of a puzzle—the order isn’t particularly important.

We had to add additional vertical supports for the drawer slides to attach to, and checked the spacing beforehand:

Once the base of the frame was built, it was simply a matter of screwing the pieces together and then screwing the entire frame into the wall (our walls are concrete so we used heavy duty Tapcon concrete anchors and a hammer drill).

Then the top 2×4’s were added, which were essentially a mirror of the bottom of the frame.

Step 1 done! Now it’s time to attach our face frame, to hide those unsightly 2×4’s. We used paint/stain grade poplar 1×3’s for the horizontal pieces, and 1×4’s for the verticals.

A piece of 3/4″ smooth plywood was cut down to fill in the gap behind the stairs and attached to the frame.

Next came the drawer slides. The key to success here is careful measuring, and making sure the slides are perfectly level. We used a scrap 1×3′ as a guide to make sure the slide didn’t shift when attaching.

You also have to make sure all the drawer slides are precisely the same height:

Congratulations, your frame is done! Time for the drawers, and to test out our new table saw

The drawer boxes were built with 1/2″ smooth plywood, and we made them extra large to maximize the storage. After all the pieces were cut, they were assembled with pocket holes & screws using our Kreg Jig:

I’ve had this tool for years (remember back when I used to build furniture?) and pulled it out of storage for this project. Lucas wasn’t sure about it at first and it took him a couple tries to get the hang of it, but now he’s sold!

With the help of the Kreg clamp, the drawer boxes were assembled in one evening. The bottoms were attached with wood glue and finish nails.

Next came the drawer slides. These must match up with the slides attached to the frame, but fortunately there is a bit of room for error with these slides (I made sure to read all the reviews and get the most user-friendly product I could find!)

Again, it comes down to careful measuring and patience (sensing a theme for this project?)

It took some finagling (and by some I mean several attempts to reattach the slides and forceful whacks with the hammer when that didn’t work) to get things to work properly, and it still isn’t 100% perfect, but now that it’s finished, you can’t even tell.

I had just assumed this would all be a disaster and was pleasantly surprised when the drawers fit on our first attempt. After all three were tested, we added the drawer fronts made with 3/4″ smooth plywood, attached from the inside.

With the hardest part out of the way, we focused our attention on the wall above it.

The only source of natural light in this room was from the holes in these cement blocks, with a piece of plastic behind it. The energy inefficient jail cell vibe is not the look we were going for, so I found these nice black windows in-stock at Lowe’s and had two delivered the next week:

Our handyman came over and Lucas helped him cut the rough opening. LET THERE BE LIGHT!

While waiting on the windows to be installed, we got to work on the back wall. I wanted something more interesting than the plaster walls, and wallpaper was not an option since they were textured, so I thought shiplap would be the perfect solution. I’ve installed my fair share of shiplap—or faux shiplap to be accurate, but this time I decided to go for the real deal for easy installation and more professional looking results. Lowe’s carries shiplap in varying sizes/lengths, and I opted for the widest width (7″) and longest length (12′) to avoid seams.

Before installing, we had to attach furring strips to the wall since it’s made out of concrete which means you can’t nail into it. We also took this opportunity to install thin insulation to help with energy efficiency, since it’s an exterior wall.

This step was a couple extra days of work, but absolutely worth the effort and added cost to do it right.

With our wall freshly insulated and furred out, it was time to install our shiplap! This process is very straight forward and one of the easier parts of this whole project. We spent a couple evenings and knocked it out, along with installation of our new window, with less than an hour to go before Thanksgiving day.

And with that, the hardest parts were over! The next three days were spent on all the little details—like quarter round along the edges of the wall:

Window trim ripped down from scrap plywood:

Window sills and more window trim:

The drawer fronts were looking pretty plain, so Lucas ripped down 3″ strips of wood to give them a shaker style:

The edges were mitered, and we used wood glue and nailed them in by hand (we didn’t have small enough nails for our gun, but a hammer worked perfectly!)

Then a full day of patching, caulking, sanding and painting…

Tip: for a smooth painted finish, you need smooth wood (of course), a foam roller, several light coats and and sanding between each coat with 220 grit paper. We painted everything in HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Pure White.

The drawers were super happy about getting new hardware.

For the top of the bench, we cut down two 3/4″ sheets of plywood to fit.

I had a custom 5″ cushion made by a local cushion shop (using Sunbrella fabric) and we added two matching sconces. We ran out of time to wire them, but that will be done soon!

You guys. Look at what we made! (hover over or tap the photo to pull up sources):


I am just beside myself.

This blog post and video are a simplified, condensed version of this journey that stretched across weeks.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of challenging moments and frustrations along the way. The struggles have made this finish line that much richer.

I’m a little surprised at how different the entire house feels. You can see down to this room when you walk in the front door, and the coziness draws you right in and makes you want to curl up with a book.

Susie agrees—she hasn’t left that window ledge in days.

Can we talk about these huge drawers for a minute?

I finally have a place to put all my pillows!

Ok let’s be honest, 1/4th of my pillows… but better than nothing!

This bench is deceivingly large. It’s the width of a twin size bed, and 12′ long. Two people could sleep on it if they wanted.

I love the touch these simple sconces add! They make such a difference.

We didn’t get around to replacing the railing, but I’m thinking we should just remove that side altogether. Not sure if that would be a safety hazard… what do you think?

Yes, I’m aware this room needs a deep cleaning (the whole house does). The paint was barely dry before I threw on the pillows to snap a few finished photos.

Speaking of pillows—if you’re wondering about the sources, I’ll be sharing all about those in a blog post soon! I’ve linked to a handful already in my IG stories (they’re crazy good prices!)

As soon as this post goes live, I’m busting out the Christmas pillows & blankets and making this bench festive. There will be a holiday decorating blitz over the next few days here and next week I’ll share my last minute/simple decor ideas on the blog.

Okay—I think that’s enough content for one blog post! Are you overwhelmed? Or ready to tackle your own window seat/daybed/reading nook? All you need are the right tools and lots of patience 🙂

Happy holiday season my friends—see you again next week!

Dining Room Reveal: Riverside Retreat

Another week, another room reveal! This one comes just in time for the holiday festivities, where I’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year (my first time since 2014!) and going non-traditional with a vegan feast and a tropical Florida setting. Variety is the spice of life, right?

If you missed the Dining Room plans post a couple weeks ago, make sure to get caught up on those details first. We decided to keep things fresh and fun in here, with a unique mix of mid-century, vintage and tropical style (you can read all about our plans to turn this house into a vacation rental here if you’re just joining the party):

Here’s how the room looked when we first moved in this summer:

And now with a wave of my magic wand…

I bought this house for that archway… can you blame me?

Where to start!? How about that stunner statement piece chandelier

It took us a few days to come around to the size, but now it feels like it was meant for this space. The perfect mix of beachy and elegant—so happy I found it!

It only has one bulb but it was plenty of light for our most recent dinner party. I’m actually planning to put it on a dimmer so we can turn it down just a bit to control the ambiance.

And how about these luscious pink velvet chairs?

They were a last minute switch in the design plan, and completely set the tone for the room. They’re comfortable, durable/easy to clean, and a bargain at $66/ea. Zero complaints here.

Everyone who has stopped by immediately comments on the map wall and tries to identify where they live. Gotta love these statement pieces!

The copper frames ended up being perfect with the tones of the wood & pink (PS—Art To Frames is offering my readers 15% off all orders with the code JENNA15)

Several of you have also reached out regarding the maps—I make them custom for any city, size & color and you can order those here 🙂

Let’s talk about the centerpiece of the room—this table!

I spent months looking for a 60″ round table (not easy to find) and had delivered all the way from Orlando. It was painted with a mix of Maison Blanche Paint Company‘s Maison White + Ivory furniture paint. I gave it a light distressing to let some of the detail show through, and then sealed it with their matte varnish (I use that stuff on all my furniture, it’s the best!)

Speaking of paint—the walls are Sherwin Williams Pure White, and the trim is Sherwin Williams Loggia. Loggia is a tricky shade because there’s so much variation—it reads anywhere from a beige to taupe to gray, and medium to light depending on the lighting. I’m still very happy with my choice—it makes the rooms feel warm and earthy!

To balance all the warm tones, we painted the ceiling a soft blue (SW Pristine Skies) and added fancy molding around it to make the 9′ ceilings feel even taller. A large medallion was also added to emphasize the chandelier. These details really make all the difference!

This is the same molding used in the adjacent living room, so the spaces feel cohesive even with different color themes.

Of course, swapping out the old tile floors with wood (ahem, Pergo laminate that looks and feels like wood) was a massive upgrade and changed the whole feel of the house.

On the back wall, we’ve got that gorgeous Geome sideboard from Article…

And above it, I found the perfect round gold mirror from Wayfair…

It has a light patina/aged effect which you can see in the photo above. The lamp is only $88 and came from Wayfair as well.

During the shoot I swapped the palm leaf for these monstera stems (borrowed from the guest bedroom). It’s fun playing with different arrangements for the sideboard décor, and I’ll be changing it again soon for the holidays!

That vintage hanging map is a super bargain I found months ago, and fits perfectly with the colors & style of the room. Susie says hi…

Can you spot the vintage hardware?

If you were around for my last One Room Challenge reveal, you may remember these brass handles from Nostalgic Hardware! Of course we took them with us when we moved out—I swapped this one out temporarily but the plan is to hopefully use them on all the doors in the Heights House.

Sorry, I took a million photos of this space. I didn’t know when to stop!

My photographer sister let me borrow her good camera and fancy 85mm lens for some of these shots. Can you tell the difference? (Christmas gift hint for any family members reading… 😉 )

A rare glimpse into the kitchen… probably one of the last rooms we’ll tackle in this house:

I ran out of time to shoot a video reveal, but there’s an 87% chance I’ll make one and post it on YouTube within the next couple weeks…

We’re working on a few other projects right now on a tight deadline, so we’ll see how things go!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this reveal, and a completely different style from me! Expect this house to be full of surprises, and we’re just getting started.

And with that, a very happy Thanksgiving to you! I am eternally thankful for all of you reading this right now. Wherever and whoever you celebrate with this year, I hope it’s full of gratitude. And pink velvet.


Heights House Build: 10 Week Update

I know you’ve been waiting on pins and needles for a new build update, and today is your lucky day! It has officially been 10 weeks since our lot was prepped, and since then it has felt like Christmas morning every few days as we check in on the progress.

Click on the images below to watch the construction unfold…

Pretty amazing, right? We are blown away by how fast it’s coming together, especially in the past month after the first concrete wall went up. It’s like watching the birth of our child after months of dreaming & designing it on paper 🙂

Speaking of walls—let’s start with the exterior. I went into detail about the plans in this post back in September, sharing my rough rendering of the vision for the front:

Nothing has really changed much here, though we haven’t made it too far into the process of choosing exterior finishes. The biggest wild card are the window headers—I wanted an arched top look, and found this image to use as inspiration (source unknown):

Ours won’t have the keystone at the top, but I love the shape/texture of the frame and the illusion that the arched shape gives without having to spend double for arched windows. Our builder (Zenun Homes) works with a talented exterior finishes guy who we met at the site to discuss our options, and he said that he’d be able to recreate this look without a problem. Since everything we’re doing is custom, we don’t have examples to look at so we’re hoping it all works out like we think it will!

One bit of good news on the front exterior—I had mentioned in my last post about wanting to clad the turret in stone but thought it might be out of our budget… fortunately, our builder said it was doable! This isn’t the exact stone we’ll be using, but similar (source: Coronado Stone)

For the front door, we’re sourcing it locally from a custom door shop who is also building our french patio doors. It ended up being more than we wanted to spend, but we decided it was worth the convenience to have it done locally to avoid complications, and since it also requires special curved molding. This is the photo we gave them to replicate (it’s an 8′ door):


We will be choosing our roof shingles this week (yay!) so I’ll be able to share that in the next update. And we’re still planning to use a warm white smooth stucco, dark bronze fascia & gutters, light warm gray shutters for the front door & accent window. Can you picture it yet?

Many of you have been watching the progress on Instagram and were curious about why we used block construction. Here’s my answer:

The vast majority of new builds around here are block construction for these reasons, but it does come at a higher cost. Second stories are often built with wood frame, which you can get away with since it’s not part of the foundational structure rooted in the ground.

Let’s walk around to the left side of the house:

We’re on a corner lot and this side will be exposed, but we plan to add trees and shrubs for privacy and shade. As you can see we’re still waiting on the upstairs windows to be installed—they’re all the same Jeld-Wen black exterior/white interior (I’ll do a detailed post on them soon). From left to right in the photo above, downstairs we have the window for the master closet, master bath, and guest bath. The two windows upstairs go to the two bedrooms.

Onto the back of the house…

The backyard is one of our favorite views. There’s a large oak tree covered in Spanish moss that extends well beyond our 10,000 sf lot. Above you can see our master bedroom section on the right.

Eventually we plan to build a patio in this area off the house for dining and lounging. The three windows on the lower left are part of the kitchen (the sink will be below the center window), and the opening to the right will contain our 8′ french doors. The skinny 2×6′ windows on the far right are on another wall of our master bedroom, and the upstairs windows go to the bonus room (left) and a bathroom (right).

Another look at the skinny windows… sigh.

Back in the front, the two windows on the lower left go to the office/smallest bedroom, above that is a third bedroom, and the right side of the house is our living room. How fun is that little arched window? It was the only one we could afford!

I still can’t believe the house looked like this just two weeks ago! Our builder says our truss system was crazy complicated and there was a lot of problem solving to build the conical roof on the turret. I guess this is what happens when you DIY the plans from scratch 😉 We are eternally appreciative for his patience and determination to make this perfect!

As dramatic as the exterior progression has been, we’ve been having the most fun inside. A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted the stairs to curve at the bottom of our staircase and drew my idea onto a sheet of plywood:

A day later we came back to this:

It’s as close to waving a magic wand as you can get. This crew is unbelievably quick and talented!

To the right of the staircase, the front door opens up into the living room/dining area, with the kitchen in the back. Here’s looking straight into the open dining space, with an opening for the patio doors on the left, bank of kitchen windows in the middle, and laundry room/pantry closet on the right.

Now take a few steps forward and look back to your right to the living room:

How bout that vaulted ceiling? We’ll be adding straight wood beams running parallel to the floor. It’s not a huge room, but it’ll be gorgeous.

If you’re standing in the back corner of the living room, here’s the view looking back to the front entrance on the left, dining space in the middle:

And now back to the main kitchen area. A 48″ stove with a custom range hood enclosure will be centered on that back wall.

Now it’s time for my FAVORITE PART OF THE HOUSE! Check out this custom archway…

I designed this on the computer and sent it over to my builder, who said “consider it done.” Now that’s the language you want your builder to speak.

We stopped by when they were in the middle of cutting out the shape and had them adjust the measurements until it was just right. I’m not sure exactly how they finish it off, but I can’t wait to find out during the drywall stage.

This archway leads to the master bed/bath, guest bath and office on the left side of the house.

On the right you can see the under-the-stair storage closet (the living room is visible on the left).

If you turn right to the back of the house, you’ll enter the master suite.

It’s not a very large room (around 13’x15′) but the vaulted ceilings will make it feel open and spacious.

And guess what… WE HAVE ANOTHER ARCH!

I had my builder make a condensed version of the same hallway arch for our master closet *swoon*.

It’s an open hallway-style closet and will have custom floor to ceiling cabinetry on either side. This space is one of my most anticipated features of the home!

The rest of the left side of the house is currently just a bunch of partitions so you can’t really tell what’s going from photos (you can see the floor plans in the original post):

Upstairs looks about the same at the moment. Two bedrooms, one bathroom and a bonus room within approx 950 sf.

Here’s how the whole floor looked a couple weeks ago, before the partitions went up:

We originally weren’t intending to build out the bonus room, but this unexpected code requirement turned out to be a blessing because now we have so many options to utilize this space! If nothing else, it’s nice to have the extra storage room and space to hold out of town guests.

I love that all of the ceilings upstairs are sloped from the roofline. I think it adds so much character! Although there’s still some areas where it’s hard to visualize exactly how it will look with drywall…

That will just be one of many surprises to look forward to 🙂

One important decision has been made—our interior doors:

We wanted something you don’t see every day, and an arched top just seemed fitting with the front door and other accents in the home. I found these pre-hung solid core 7′ doors on Ebay and placed the order last week. There’s a 5-7 week lead time but we don’t mind the wait, as it won’t hold anything up. These will be so gorgeous painted in a soft warm gray with vintage style brass hardware! Counting down the days to their arrival.

In other important interior news, we’ve finalized our plans for the kitchen but haven’t placed the order just yet—I’ll do a dedicated kitchen post soon (the cabinets won’t need to arrive until January most likely) and we are 90% sure on our flooring but haven’t ordered that yet either:

It’s an engineered French Oak in a beautiful handsawn matte finish, and $5/sf. The lead time is less than a week so we still have a while before we need to order. Stay tuned for our final decision!

Our AC system is almost fully installed as of today, and next comes electric and plumbing rough-in. If anyone is dying to know, here’s the electric layout we came up with for the first floor (there will probably be some adjustments once we do a walkthrough with the electrician):

The plumbing is the trickiest part, since we have to have not only all of the fixture locations figured out, but we need the rough-in valves ordered and installed as well—which means we need to decide on shower fixtures. This poses a slight issue because I don’t have all of my bathroom design plans finalized, or even halfway figured out, and I can’t commit to anything without a complete design plan in place. This is the trouble with building or remodeling an entire house at once! I know I’ll make some decisions I’ll come to regret or have to redo in the near future, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Even still, building a house has been the most exciting and rewarding process—night and day from remodeling a home, in my experience. Much of that is because we have an incredible builder who handles all of the logistics and issues that arise without us even knowing. But even with so much happening at once, this process is more predictable than opening up walls in an old house where you’re guaranteed to uncover surprises (aka problems and setbacks). And, you see results much faster with a dedicated crew working 10 hour days vs. two novice DIYers fumbling their way through projects between work schedules 😉

I know we’re not even halfway through this build yet, but I would trade remodeling old homes for building new all day, and going through this process has made us reconsider our options moving forward as investors. I don’t think this will be the last custom home build I’m involved with. We’ll see what the future holds!

If you aren’t following the new build progress on my Instagram stories, make sure you head over now and catch up on everything you’ve missed! I try to update at least weekly, and will be sharing more frequently now that we’re getting to the fun parts.

Next up: countdown to the dining room reveal in the Riverside Retreat! See you back here before Thanksgiving,

Guest Bedroom Reveal: Riverside Retreat

The first bedroom in the Riverside Retreat is officially finished and ready for guests!

We started on this project last month, but I had been planning out the design well beforehand (planning is the most important part!)

The bedroom is small at just over 11′ x 12′ in size, so a more youthful design seemed fitting.

This future vacation rental home will have a unique design for every room, and after finding the perfect wallpaper as inspiration, I thought it’d be fun to go with a rainforest theme.

Phase 1 of this makeover included new floors, paint, crown molding and baseboard, wallpaper and a fan.

Then it was time for the fun part: furniture and accessories! I partnered with Overstock for this project because they had everything I needed to bring my design to life, and I know you guys appreciate when I share budget-friendly pieces that you can use in your home too!

Welcome to our Rainforest Room…

Envision the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, exotic birds chirping, the roar of a distant waterfall and sunlight filtering through the canopy above.

We want our guests to feel as though they’ve been transported to another place, where their imagination can run free.

When you walk into the room, you’ll notice floor to ceiling curtains which draw your eye up and make the room appear taller, while rich velvet fabric and a champagne gold rod add a little bit of a luxury.

Immediately to your left, an empty wall has been utilized by an antique bench and accordion rack—functional storage space for travelers (cat not included).

Of course, the tropical wallpaper backdrop steals the show.

But the two main players in this room are those matching pink velvet beds. As soon as I spotted these beauties on Overstock, I knew they were perfect for the space.

The pastel pink is a perfect complement to the deep blue and green palette, and pops beautifully against the rich backdrop. The subtle curved shape of the headboard mimics the flow of the leaves, and the plush velvet contrasts nicely against the hard surfaces in the room. Design is all about balance, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better bed for this space!

Speaking of beds—comfort is of utmost importance in a vacation rental.  Each one has the cushiest memory foam mattress (no box spring required with these beds), and I kept the bedding simple as to not compete for attention with the rest of the room.

Layered basic neutrals—ivory microfiber sheets, a fluffy down comforter and white duvet cover, and my favorite stitched pom-pom throw set (only $20 for 2!) make these beds extra comfy and inviting (and affordable). And I just couldn’t resist this emerald green velvet accent pillow…

It comes in many colors and might be my favorite throw pillow of the year (and that’s a huge honor).

I know you’ve been eyeing that gold pineapple sconce

This caught my attention online, and I couldn’t decide if it was the coolest thing ever or just weird… and that’s how I knew I needed it. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it certainly leaves an impression!

I can’t stress enough how important lighting is in a room. Adding these sconces made the single biggest difference in here—more than the new floors and wallpaper combined. That’s because lighting completely changes the mood of a space—it dictates the ambiance and therefore your experience. This is why every room setup in Ikea feels so warm and inviting, and doesn’t necessarily have that same feeling when you try to recreate in your own home. It’s because they have all the right lighting! /rant over.

When it starts to get dark outside and the sconces turn on… this little space is magic. The warm glow gives the room depth, and makes the wallpaper almost come alive. I think we might need to make this our master bedroom instead…

Running wiring for these sconces was the best decision I made in here. The pineapples represent hospitality, the intricate details are really a work of art, and they bring so much warmth to the room.

Between the beds, an antique trunk full of aged character serves as a shared nightstand.

Realistic monstera palm leaves and ferns from the yard in handmade ceramic jars bring the outdoors in, and a refinished bamboo mirror (secondhand find) divides the room and makes it feel larger.

Between the beds, I found this 6′ round jute rug, which has just enough detail to make it interesting, but still simple enough to not steal the attention. The woven fibers balance the design with natural texture.

On the far right wall, a set of quirky pink flamingos tie in with the pink bed and add an extra dose of personality, perfect for this youthful space.

The tropical elements, pastel colors and mix of old and new pieces give the room depth and dimension, and make it feel like a truly unique space that has been collected over time.

Vacation rentals are all about creating an experience for guests, and designing a home that captures some of the flavor of the destination.

Over the past few weeks we’ve turned this empty bedroom into a little slice of a rainforest retreat, and I really think it’ll be a relaxing and memorable escape for future guests.

Tell me, what is your favorite part? Are you ready to book a ticket to Tampa to be our first guest? 😉 We still have several months (and a lot of DIYing) before we can open our doors to the world, but I think we’re off to a good start!

Next week I’ll be sharing a long overdue update on our new build progress, so buckle up for that!

Dining Room Plans: Riverside Retreat

While we patiently await the arrival of our furniture & accessories to complete the Rainforest Room, we’ve been hard at work on our new dining room. Take a look at this week’s vlog episode to watch the progress unfold—and get a Heights House update too!

Before I dive into the Dining Room Design Plan, I have to give you a quick update on our new build. You guys, this progress is INSANE.

Just 10 days ago the house looked like this…

And now it’s basically move-in ready:

I can’t explain the level of excitement this process has been, especially the past week as we’ve started talking details with our builder (custom archways, antique pocket doors, stone facade and custom window details). There’s a lot more to share, and I’ll put it all together in a blog update for you in a couple weeks!

But for now, let’s talk about the topic of the day—our new dining room. This room is situated directly in the center of the house, and our goal is to make it truly feel like the heart of the home—the main gathering space. Here’s the floor plan, for reference:

You may remember it looked like this when we moved in a few months ago:

In came the new floors and fresh paint:

Standing at the kitchen doorway, looking back towards the living room:

As you know, we’re renovating this house to use as a vacation rental so we’re making a point to go bold with the design (at least compared to my usual style) and give our guests a fun Florida-esque experience. Each room will have its own style, but all in keeping with the overall tropical/jungle/nature/resort vibe.

Here’s what I came up with for the dining room:


It took a few iterations to get here, so let me share a bit more about the evolution of this plan.

The first requirement was a large round table, which I spent weeks scouring the internet for (Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp, Letgo). It’s surprisingly difficult to find a 60″ round table, by the way. Eventually I found this beauty in Orlando and hired someone off Craigslist to transport it 2 hours to me:

Did you know that pineapples are a symbol of southern hospitality? It was meant to be! (this won’t be the last pineapple, fyi).

I’ll be painting the table white this week (sorry wood purists, there’s no way I’d keep all these different wood tones in this room).

The next piece I found was this Geome sideboard from Article:

I was captivated by that geometric texture and wood tones—seriously how gorgeous is the craftsmanship here?

It brings such a nice earthy element to ground the space and contrast with the lighter tones and pastel colors.

Next came the chairs. Originally I was thinking I’d do a wicker/rattan style for texture, and had it narrowed down to these three options (click for the sources):

But then, right as I was I was about to make my final decision, these pink velvet beauties came out of nowhere…

Pink was not even on my radar, but these were speaking to me and I couldn’t ignore it. So I switched up the design plan to make them work. NO REGRETS.

Next up: the ever important chandelier. It needed to be eye-catching, statement making, and give off a tropical yet elegant feel. Wood beads were the solution.

I spotted this one months ago, and thought it was on the small side, but I couldn’t find anything else similar (and it’s a good price!) so I was ready to place my order:

Before pulling the trigger, I did one last internet deep dive looking for possible alternatives, and then I found it

It was larger, more elegant, and certainly more of a statement maker. I worried it may have even been too large, but I’d much rather err on the side of oversized than undersized.

It’s worth mentioning that I found this chandelier after I had already placed my order, and was a little heartbroken because I had been looking for one just like this but couldn’t find it (somehow it never came up in the 80 hours I spent looking through every option on Wayfair):

At least now you have the chance to get it! You’re welcome 🙂

Our goods have been arriving and I’m LOVING how well they’re getting along…

The vintage map is something I picked up earlier this year (it’s such a bargain!) and so is the vase, and I chose this pretty light aqua lamp to sit atop the sideboard:

I love the way the curves play off the hard lines of the sideboard:

Above the sideboard I found this large round gold mirror:

We needed something simple to let the sideboard shine, and round to contrast with the geometric shapes. This mirror fit the bill, and bonus points for the unique aged/patina finish. I haven’t unboxed it yet but I’m looking forward to getting it on the wall!

And finally… what to do with this giant 10′ blank wall?

There wasn’t room for furniture (or a need for it) and we already had a big mirror on one wall, so large scale art was the answer!

Most people make the mistake of displaying undersized art, so I always recommend going larger when in doubt. I measured the wall and decided that a total size of somewhere around 6′ x 6′ would be sufficient.

One tip to save on expensive framing is to have your artwork enlarged and split up into multiple standard sized frames (or just hang several pieces of art in a grid). There are a handful of standard sized frames that will always be cheaper than going with a custom size. With my wall, six 24×36″ frames (a standard poster size) displayed in a grid was my best option to fill the space.

I chose to partner with Art To Frames for this project, because they have the widest range of customization options at the best prices I could find online. They had a lot of styles to choose from in my size, and I settled on these lovelies:

It’s hard to find slim profile frames and these are just what I was looking for, at only .625″ thick. The warm gold ties in with the wood tones in the room, and the egg and dart pattern coordinates with the ceiling trim. Perfect!

Now for the artwork. I wanted something with a local flavor for this space, especially since this will be a temporary home to out of town guests. It’s important to represent the area within the home, and you can never go wrong with maps as art. So I designed this abstract aerial cityscape of Tampa Bay:

Here’s another trick to save on framing costs—faux mats. I think art looks so much better framed with mats (the white space around the artwork), it’s a more classic and professional look. However, mats can be expensive. If you don’t have the budget for one, consider having your artwork printed with a white border around it instead. It’ll mimic the look of a mat and save you lots of moolah.

Since I was splitting up one larger piece of art, I designed the white border around the edge of the entire design instead of inside the individual frames. It gives it a more interesting look, don’t you think?

Of course if you have the budget, go for the mat! Art to Frames allows you to completely customize your mat color, size, even add multiple mats. And you can preview it before ordering:

That’s actually one of my favorite parts about the website—you can upload your art, play around with different frame styles & sizes, and see exactly what your finished result will look like before ordering (you can even see it mocked up in a room at scale):

I also pulled my previews into my design plan in Photoshop just to make sure before ordering:

Art to Frames is a full service shop too, so they can print your design and have it delivered to you framed and ready to hang. I used my own printer, but it’s nice to have that option and save a step!

My frames arrived in just 3 days and the they look much more expensive in person!

I opted for the non-glare plexiglass since the wall has light hitting it at weird angles, and I wanted to help reduce the reflections. If you aren’t planning on doing photo/video shoots in the space though, that’s not as important 😉

I love love love the way it came together! It’s bold, beautiful, and a nice dark contrast against the white walls and light accessories.

I also love the abstract nature and that you don’t immediately recognize what it is. It’s a great way to represent the area and I think it’ll be a fun addition for our guests 🙂

Friendly reminder: if you’ve never noticed the ‘Shop‘ section of this website, I have hundreds of abstract city maps and I’d love to design something custom for your home too! Just send me a photo of your space and we can come up with the perfect solution.

OK—with all the walls addressed, I couldn’t forget about the 5th and arguably the most important wall in this design… the ceiling!

It was painted blue when we moved in, and I decided to keep it blue (to represent the sky) but paint alone wasn’t enough of a wow factor. Enter fancy molding:

Look familiar? This is the same molding we used in the adjacent living room a couple months back:

Except this time instead of attaching it to the wall to frame a mural, we decided to replicate the same design on the ceiling around our blue accent color. We chose a slightly different blue (SW Pristine Skies) and installed the same crown molding first:

Then we attached our ceiling medallion and molding pieces. It was so much quicker and easier this time around! (get the tutorial here if you missed it).

The blue ceiling portion will only be inside of the molding design, as we plan to paint the outside perimeter white (between the crown and outside of the fancy molding).

It has already made our 9′ ceilings feel so much taller by drawing your attention upwards, and I think it’s the perfect way to balance the large chandelier.

We still have to caulk, spackle & paint, and I can’t wait to show you the end result! There’s a lot of moving parts to this design and a lot of different styles to balance, which has made piecing this puzzle together that much more fun.

Before we get to that, I’ve got a bedroom reveal to share… that’s coming next!

Designing a Guest Bedroom: Phase 1

This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Introducing our next project in the Riverside Retreat… the guest bedroom!

I get a lot of questions about where to begin when designing a room. There’s so many pieces that all need to work together, and it can be overwhelming—especially when you’re starting with a blank slate! That was my situation with this small guest bedroom:

After years of trial and error, there’s a certain strategy I like to follow that seems to be the most successful. It’s the same process for every room whether it’s a bedroom, kitchen or even outdoor space, and it’s becoming second nature with more practice.

Today I’m going to walk you through Phase 1 of this design process, which focuses on the large surfaces—walls, floors, ceiling and architectural details. These are all very important components as they visually make up the largest part of the design, and should be well thought out in the planning stages.

It all starts with a single piece of inspiration—this can be anything from a color to a pattern, a piece of furniture, textile, fixture, etc. Fall in love with something and use that as the foundation to build your design. Let it be your guide to envision how you want the space to feel when you walk inside. Focus on the feeling first, and the design will follow.

With this room, my inspiration was this eye-catching tropical wallpaper:

Since we’re renovating this house to use as a vacation rental, we’ve gotta go bold with the design (our new build will be much more traditional so I’m letting my creativity go wild in this house!) I spotted this wallpaper months ago and it instantly evoked the feeling of a youthful, tropical themed bedroom with twin beds and lush materials + colors. From there, I dreamed up our Rainforest Room:

Can’t you just hear the birds chirping and monkeys howling? Maybe I should hide a speaker in there that plays jungle noises full time. Hmmm… now that would be an experience! But before we get too ahead of ourselves and talk about the furniture + accessories (Phase 2), we need to focus on the foundation of the room.

You may remember that we had Pergo laminate installed last month, so the ‘flooring’ portion of Phase 1 was already taken care of. Warm wood floors go beautifully with pretty much any design, and it’ll give the space an earthy grounded element.

Since this wallpaper is so bold, I decided to use it on just one wall as to not overwhelm the small room. The focal wall of any bedroom is where the headboards will go, so it made the most sense to direct the attention there.

Before tackling that wall though, we had to plan out our lighting situation. You always want multiple light sources in every room, whether that’s overhead lighting, natural light, recessed lights, sconces or lamps. This room has a nice large window but only one overhead light, so we decided to add two wall sconces on for a little extra ambiance. We’ll have two matching twin beds with a sconce centered above each:

With the electricians job done, it was time to decide on a paint color for the walls. One of my favorite design tips to make spaces feel cohesive is to pull a color directly from a pattern in the room. I wanted the wallpaper to stand out but still blend in with the rest of the walls, so I selected a handful of paint swatches from the HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams line at Lowe’s that matched to a color in the wallpaper (I brought the wallpaper into Lowe’s so I could hold the paint swatches up to it):

I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted a blue or green tone, so I selected 5 different shades in a range of tones.

From top to bottom: Tree Swallow, Interesting Aqua, Racing the Rain, Falkland Blue, Rice Terrace. And here they are on the wall (same order):

I’ve preached this before and I’ll keep on preachin’ it forever—always get paint samples! It’s crazy how different those swatches look not only in the store, but on different walls in your home and at different times of day. Here’s the same shot with the light turned on. See how different the colors look?

Same time of day, different wall. The colors even look different just a few feet away.

This just proves that there is no one “right paint color”—many shades can work, because they’re all constantly changing anyway!

After getting the swatches on the wall, my bluest options looked purple so those were out. It was a tough call between the other three, but in the end, Rice Terrace (the bottom shade) won out.

The swatch looked green in the store, but in this room it ranges from light to mid-toned, teal to turquoise. I tried out Sherwin Williams higher end ‘Infinity‘ line, and it covered in a single coat.

I opted for an eggshell finish, only because kids rooms tend to be considered ‘high traffic’ with a higher potential of destruction, and this paint is scrubbable so I won’t have to worry about repainting! As a future vacation rental, durability and longevity is top priority.

I also repainted all of the trim & doors in HGTV Home by SW Pure White to match the rest of the house (also in an eggshell finish because it’s what I had at hand, but satin or semi-gloss is a better choice FYI). I went for an extra crisp white to balance out all of the dark tones and give the room that nice clean contrast.

One product I recently discovered is ceiling paint—have you heard of this? It’s a specially formulated paint that is spatter resistant, blocks stains and comes in a matte finish, which is ideal especially for textured ceilings like ours.

We had a few stains and this covered right over them. I plan to use this for all of the white ceilings in the house—it’s nice to have consistency and not worry about choosing the right shade of white and proper sheen.

With all the painting done, it was time to install our wallpaper!

We used Brewster paper in our laundry room makeover so we were familiar with it and knew what to expect. It’s thinner than pre-pasted paper (at least the mural we used in our living room) which makes it a lot easier to cut, and it’s less messy because you can control how much adhesive is used.

Tip: the more you use, the more easily you can slide the paper into place—so use a lot!  You can always sponge off the excess, but it’s hard to glue the edges back down after everything has dried. I’ve found that Roman adhesive is easy to work with and gets the job done.

We started our first panel in the center of the wall, drawing a straight line with a laser level and working our way out from there. We knew we’d have to trim the paper along the edges of the wall no matter what, so we calculated an ideal starting point that left us with around 10″ of paper to trim on each edge.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about making straight cuts at the top and bottom since we’d be covering that up with baseboard & crown.

Oh, and I should mention we got lucky because this is the only wall in the room that was (relatively) smooth—all the others were highly textured. We would have had to either cover the wall or skim coat it before installing the paper, since you’d be able to see the texture underneath. Whew, one less project!

Oooh yeah… look at that dimension! Can you start to see my vision yet? 🙌 It took us one evening (maybe 3-4 hours) to finish the wall, and to trim at the wall edges we used a straight edge and a sharp utility knife.

It turned out quite decent considering the bumpy walls made the corners uneven.

With all our surfaces covered, it was time for my favorite part—adding architectural detail! If you’ve been paying attention this year, you know how obsessed I am with finding ways to bring in unique architectural details. Like our framed wall mural and ceiling medallion in the living room…

I think of trim and molding as a necessary design element to make any room feel polished and complete. It’s like dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. Bonus points if it has pretty detailing!

We already had new baseboard installed with our new floors, so now it was time to choose crown molding. I could have picked out any average crown molding, but I thought why not use this as an opportunity to do something unexpected?

Luckily, Lowe’s has a giant selection of fancy crown molding where you can get just about any design under the sun…

Ahh browsing for crown, I’ll take that over clothes shopping any day! Who’s with me?

I knew I had found The One when I stumbled across this…

Doesn’t it remind you of leaves? That’s what I immediately thought of—it was meant to be.

This is the same manufacturer and lightweight poly molding we used for our living room crown, and we chose it again because it’s the easiest to work with. This time around I also ordered the Kreg crown guide after our contractor friend swore by it. Couldn’t hurt to try it!

We made sure to paint the molding before cutting and installing it (this is very important, you do not want to tape off all of your walls and ceilings after the fact!) and got to work, following the instructions on our crown guide. Then we realized that our molding didn’t fit onto the guide since the back of it wasn’t flat—womp womp. However, we were still able to use the angle finder which made our lives much easier…

Almost all of our cuts fit together quite nicely (unlike our first living room attempt) and the great thing about this foam-like molding is that it has some flex to it, so it was forgiving with our highly uneven walls.

Not too bad, right? Spackle and caulk made all those gaps disappear.

With all the bigger projects out of the way, we had one last installation to tackle—our ceiling fan:

Let’s be honest, ceiling fans aren’t exactly the most exciting or beautiful thing in a room and I prefer to look at a chandelier, however, this is Florida, and sometimes you just need a little airflow in the bedroom. Since we’ll have guests sleeping here, comfort comes first, so a ceiling fan it is!

I figured I may as well make it a design feature rather than try to camouflage it, and I knew I had found my dream fan the moment I saw it in Lowe’s.

I think it gives off a quintessential tropical resort-style vibe, and it ties in nicely with the wood floors. Definitely sets the tone for the room! (psst… hover or tap the image below for all the sources):




And this crown… I just can’t get enough.

Never underestimate the power of molding, my friends.

Are you as excited as I am to see Phase 2 of this room design?

Bring on the pink velvet, gold pineapple sconces and flamingos!

Shipments have already started to arrive and I’ll be sharing them as they come in over on my Instagram stories! Make sure you’re following me there, because we’re juggling multiple projects and they’re all moving faster than I can keep up with. Lots of exciting progress is being made and you won’t want to miss a single post!


Our Wedding Recap + House Updates

It has been a whole three weeks since we left for our wedding, and as much as we’re staying busy with house projects, those post-wedding blues still creep in from time to time. We talked about our big weekend & shared some video and photos in our vlog last week:

It was a non-traditional wedding, with a courthouse ceremony on a Thursday in Salt Lake City (attended by only our immediately family), and then a weekend-long celebration at the US’s largest privately owned log cabin in nearby Heber City, with a group of our closest family & friends.

Our biggest wish was to have everyone under one roof so we could spend quality time with them, vs the standard hello/thank you/goodbye greeting at traditional weddings. We knew that this would likely be the only opportunity we’d ever get to be surrounded by all of our favorite people at once, and we wanted to make the most of it.

On Friday night, we had a costume party (the theme was international) and can I just say… Best Idea Ever. So many fond memories from that night.

Lucas and I were a Greek God & Goddess, and we served Greek food in honor of my favorite country.

On Saturday we dressed up in more formal wedding gear, barbecued and played games, and caught up with our loved ones.

We got all dressed up in our formal wedding attire, took a few photos and gathered everyone into the Grand Room where we exchanged vows we had written.

The celebration continued with food, drink & dancing until the wee hours of the morning. We couldn’t have asked for more—beautiful autumn scenery, perfect weather, an abundance of love and laughter and happy memories.  As sad as we are that it’s all over, we’re truly so blessed for those precious few days, and will always look back at this time as the happiest of our lives.

(Photo by the amazing Adam Black Photography)

We skipped the big honeymoon and opted instead for a couple nights at the darling little A-Frame Haus just up the street.

It was so nice, just the two of us and quiet solitude. Reflecting on the whirlwind that had just passed.

This place is so special to us now, we can’t wait to come back once we have a family of our own and make it a tradition.

Would it be weird if I just never took off my wedding dress? I’m thinking about wearing it full time.

So much joy. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and if I hadn’t hit rock bottom three years ago, I wouldn’t be here now. Beauty from ashes, my friends—always.

Switching gears now to more happy updates… our new build is coming together fast! When we left for the wedding, there was just a foundation:

And when we returned, the walls were going up!

Backyard view with the kitchen on the left and master bedroom on the right:

And over the past couple weeks our builder has really kicked things into high gear. The entire first floor exterior walls done!

Naturally, I’m most excited to see the turret front entrance take shape:

And we’re starting to get a sense of the layout and how it feels to walk through the rooms. To be honest, the house feels quite a bit smaller than we thought—to the point where Lucas and I got nervous and had to double check the measurements. Our builder says this is common and that the rooms will feel larger as they become finished. We thought the house would be too big, but I’m already kinda wishing we went a little bigger on the first floor!

Above view from the front of the left side of the house, looking into the guest room, then the guest bath (first window on left), then master bath (second window on left), master closet (third window on left), and master bedroom with 3 windows and a vaulted ceiling.

Above view from the front entrance looking straight into the dining area, with the kitchen on the back wall (sink centered below the window) and french doors to the backyard.

Above view standing at the french doors off the kitchen looking back towards the front of the house. The living room will have five large windows with a vaulted ceiling. The small window on the left will be the laundry room.

Standing at the back french doors again, looking towards the right with the living room on the left, the front entrance in the center, and the front guest room on the right. Stairs leading to the second floor will be on the right side of that concrete wall in the center.

If you missed last month’s post with the floor plans & layout, you can find that here.

I’ve been sharing all the new build progress updates on my Instagram stories, and many of you have been asking why we’re using concrete blocks instead of wood frame. My answer?

Yesterday the roof trusses arrived, and you know I’ll be continuing to share all the updates over on Instagram! I can’t believe how fast things are happening now—it’s really incredible to watch!

Meanwhile at the Riverside Retreat, our next project is our first Guest Bedroom!

I’m tackling this makeover in two phases, and will be breaking down Phase 1 of my design process next week. There will be some helpful information in there if you’re struggling with a room redesign and don’t know where to start!

Here’s a peek at my design inspiration…

Gimme some of that lush goodness, yum! This has been a fun departure from my normal neutral palette and a chance to really dive into my creativity. I can’t wait to share more!

In other new content, this morning I published a video tutorial on how to build your own corn hole board game set:

We actually shot this video months ago, but were waiting for the green light by Black+Decker to publish it and finally got approval! Better late than never 😉 I love these little DIY weekend projects, and here in Florida we still have plenty of time to use them before it gets too chilly outside (and by too chilly I mean below 70° 😆) Give it a watch and tell me what you think!

Aaaand finally… in the spirit of autumn, I recently posted a handful of deals that caught my eye on Instagram…

A few highlights:

  1. This $20 knit blanket that comes in lots of colors
  2. Plaid scarves are my #1 fall essential—I use them as blankets, tablecloths, hanging decor, staging and photo props, and live in them as scarves when the temps drop! Lots of colors to choose from and only $13 shipped.
  3. These pleated velvet pillows (I ordered two in emerald for our guest bedroom)
  4. These versatile striped pillowcases for only $6.77 shipped!
  5. Buffalo check pillows—a seasonal staple and on super sale right now for under $5/ea as a set!
  6. Storage bins + leather + a match made in heaven.
  7. White craft pumpkins you can paint or leave as is, use everywhere from your front porch to your mantel or tablescape. A must!
  8. Obsessed with this faux eucalyptus and cotton wreath. Can actually work in any season.

While we’re talking about fall, I’d like to remind you that my popular Give Thanks printable is still available as a free download! You can get all the details in this blog post.

Alright, I think that’s enough random information for one post! We’re juggling a lot of things right now so I’m trying my best to organize these updates. Our agenda over the next week is to wallpaper our guest bedroom, add crown molding and new lighting, photograph/shoot video/edit that content to share with you next week, as well as tackling the crown and ceiling molding and new paint in the dining room, dining table refinishing, finalize our shopping list and get everything ordered so we can finish that room by Thanksgiving. And this is a light work week for us  😬

Don’t forget to follow me over on Instagram for daily behind the scenes updates!




Laundry Room Makeover: Riverside Retreat

This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

The dust on our new floors hadn’t even settled yet before we were moving onto our next project in the Riverside Retreat…

With so much to do in this house in so little time, we decided to start with the smallest room first: our laundry room!

When I say small, I mean just enough room for a washer, dryer, and one person to comfortably stand in while doing laundry. The size and configuration certainly limits the potential in here, but I was determined to make the most of it on a small budget and timeframe.

This room was originally an exterior porch, later converted into a utility room. This means the walls are thick, textured stucco (the worst kind of wall) with exterior shutters and a window to the kitchen. I’m all about those unique features so that part I don’t mind.

The only functional part of this room were two small shelves, which weren’t the best use of the space. The problem was, the washer/dryer wall is essentially the only usable wall space since the room is too narrow to mount shelves/cabinets on the side walls.

The wall opposite the washer/dryer is a passageway between the kitchen and back door, so we couldn’t do much there either. There was a window in the center of the back wall which also limited our options (removing it was not in the budget).

I had to put my thinking cap on and come up with a plan to maximize storage, functionality, design and budget—I shared my design inspiration and plans in the ‘Before’ post last month:

The floors would become the focal point with a fun custom penny tile design, I’d keep the room light and airy with soft earthy colors, introduce organic elements like wood shelves/counter and botanical wallpaper, warm it up with gold accents, upgrade our barely-working Craigslist washer/dryer with the highest rated large capacity Samsung models, and make the space more functional with a mix of open and closed storage.

Mission accomplished 💪

Here’s how we pulled it all together in 3 weeks (I’m not counting the week we were off getting married ;).

First, I lightened up the dark wood ceiling with HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Softened Green—a gorgeous neutral sage green.

Next, we swapped out the old back door with a Jeld-Wen glass patio door. You can never have too much light in a tiny space!

The old windows had layers of thick, baked on paint (one window was painted shut) that we meticulously scraped clean with razorblades (it took us about a week) and we gave them a fresh coat of Accessible Beige—also in the SW HGTV Home line, and a new favorite color!

The new door and shutters were painted to match (everything in a satin finish).

Now for the main event: tile! I haven’t tiled in years — since the 2015 One Room Challenge, so my skills and memory were a bit rusty. Luckily, we were able to follow in the footsteps of the great penny tile pioneers who have come before us.

We followed this blog tutorial from YHL (they’re always so thorough, I love it) and took our time, working on the project over the course of a few days.

I picked up this Skil wet tile saw before starting, thanks to the great reviews (and it’s only $69!) and then realized that this project doesn’t require a saw at all… oops. The penny tiles simply peel right off the mesh backing, and any cuts that need to be made are done by hand with tile nippers.

Fortunately(?) we have lots of DIY tile projects in our future, so this saw will get put to good use soon.

Penny (or hex) tile is one of those risk/reward scenarios—it can take more effort and attention to detail than other types of tile, but the payoff can be great if done right. You have to be super precise with this type of tile as every small imperfection will be obvious, but the reward can be something completely unique since you have creative freedom to do any design you wish.

I’ve been dying to experiment with this and try out my own design, and I spent weeks working on a plan and making adjustments in Photoshop, until settling on the winner:

Isn’t it cheerful? That’s what laundry rooms should be all about. Let’s not make chore time any more depressing, right?

I used Bedrosians penny tile from Lowe’s, in white, charcoal and silver sage (which is a little more teal in person). For the grout, I decided on Mapei’s UltracolorPlus in Timberwolf (which eliminates the need for a sealer). Tip: if you’re worried about imperfections, use a grout color that’s similar to your tile color. I actually prefer the look of dark grout with black tile and light grout with white tile, but since I was using both black and white tile, I figured that a medium gray would be the best compromise.

Once the concrete floors were prepped and cleared of debris, we spent a few hours dry fitting the tile and cutting out the individual pieces for our design. It was very much a ‘figure it out as we went’ scenario, involving a lot of adjusting and readjusting until everything look centered and matched our mockup.

Setting our pre-arranged sheets of tile was pretty straightforward. It went by surprisingly fast, starting in one corner and weaving our way across the room as we raced the clock to get our sheets in place before the mortar dried. Once you get the hang of the proper mortar thickness, you’re off to the races. We finished half the room in one evening and the other half the next day.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the updates in real time on my stories. The full recap is still saved there on my Laundry Room story highlights if you missed any of the action.

Grouting was a piece of cake—or perhaps frosting is a better word to use here? Pretending the grout is frosting makes it more enjoyable 🙂 It took just a few hours to do the whole room (and a loooot of wiping down/buffing the haze with a clean sponge over several days).

These ‘permanent’ DIY projects are always nerve wracking, even for me after all these years, but even the most difficult ones are truly always worth it in the end (as long as you’re safe and don’t lose a finger, of course). I encourage you all to get out there and JUST DO IT 😉

With the floor tile and paint out of the way, we moved onto one of my favorite parts—wallpaper! Originally this was out of the question given that you can’t wallpaper over textured drywall let alone stucco, but I was determined to sneak wallpaper into this room somehow… enter, MDF:

You can use any smooth/flat surface for this, and drywall probably would have been a better option but 1/2” MDF is what popped into my head first so we went with it. We had to use special concrete anchors (Tapcon) with a masonry bit and hammer drill to attach them to the wall (I’m telling you, stucco is the worst) and our walls are wavy and crooked on the sides so the boards were far from a perfect fit. But all we needed was a smooth foundation for the wallpaper.

The MDF was given a few coats of Zinsser water-based primer/sealer as a base for the wallpaper, and then it was off to the races!

I found this super cute botanical wallpaper by Brewster and picked up a container of Roman adhesive, since the wallpaper is not pre-pasted. This was my first time using non-pasted wallpaper and I thought it’d be extra work, but it really wasn’t!

This paper is relatively thin so it’s easy to cut with a razor blade, and we ended up using the entire roll.

There’s a ledge that goes around the room about a foot from the ceiling, so we decided to align our wallpaper wall with that instead of the ceiling, mostly to avoid having to remove the crown molding and reinstall it—which would have opened up a whole can of worms that we had zero desire/time to do right before our wedding. DIY Sanity 101: Pick and choose your battles, folks.

Notice that pretty little gold thing up there? That’s our new chandelier, and I’m in love.

In such a utilitarian space, you’ve gotta add a dose of glamour to balance things out. Design is all about opposites and contrast. This delicate beauty brings a subtle elegance to the space, and the best part is, it’s under $100!

Speaking of gold, I found these awesome hooks for just $6 a piece, and we installed five of them using a laser level:

Now that formerly plain stucco wall is functional and pretty—my favorite combination!

The day before we left for our wedding, the Samsung washer and dryer were delivered—whew!

We’ve done a handful of loads already, and can I just say that I feel like I’ve upgraded to a Maserati after being stuck with Ford Pintos for the last few months. What a difference!

Apart from the much larger capacity and no longer having to worry about the washer spinning violently out of control, my favorite part is the simplicity of the controls and the preset cycles. The countdown timer is also a necessity, and I’m so glad to have that back!

I chose these models because they had the highest ratings and thousands of reviews just on Lowe’s, and I didn’t need the extra features of the fancier models. Keep in mind, this house will be a rental soon, which means everything needs to be simple and easy to operate.

The day after we returned home from our wedding, we were installing our butcher block countertops.

I used this same product back in the Cottage Flip Kitchen and they’re my favorite wood countertop material. I love that they’re thick, solid and stainable, and at 39” they’re plenty deep enough to use one piece as counters (we actually had to rip ours down 5.5” to fit).

I bought two 6’ pieces—one for the countertop, and another to cut into two matching shelves. For the counter, we secured 2×4’s into the concrete walls with heavy duty Tapcon anchors, screwed a 1×4” ledge on top of that, and screwed the ledge into the butcher block from underneath (fyi—prior to this we relocated the electric & plumbing which is hidden by the washer).

For the shelves, we ripped 4 small pieces of the butcher block to use as ledges (with Tapcon screws and I patched, filled and sanded the holes).

After everything was installed, I finished them off with Minwax’s Weathered Oak stain.

The open shelving looks great and keeps the small space from feeling crowded, but hidden storage is important, so I came up with a quick solution utilizing the small gap between the washer and dryer.

There was around 8” of empty space between the appliances, so I decided to push them to one side and fill the gap with a DIY rolling cart (I prefer it to one side/out of the way vs in the middle of the appliances, but it can go anywhere).

Pinterest came to my rescue with this DIY tutorial, and we picked up the supplies at Lowe’s for under $50. All you need is wood, glue, screws, a nail gun, drawer pull and some casters (we used 1×8’s and 1×4’s, skipped the Kreg Jig and made our own pocket holes with a paddle bit).

It was a quick and easy evening project, and look how functional!

The day before the reveal shoot was spent installing quarter round along the vertical sides of the wallpaper wall and new baseboard—a five step process that involves 2 drills and 3 drill bits, PER SCREW (have I mentioned how much I despise stucco?)

By the way, I’ve owned a wide range of power tools in my day and DeWalt wins them all. I got this cordless drill a few months ago and we just bought the hammer drill for this project, but they’re quickly becoming our most used and loved tools. It has taken me years of headaches to learn that high quality tools make all the difference!

If you have a room with stucco walls, or even highly textured plaster or drywall, I hope that this transformation can give you some encouragement that all is not lost. You can still have a beautiful room with unfortunate walls!

And your tiny room can be a shower stopper! Our laundry room is certainly the crown jewel of this home.

At least, for now… we’ve got a guest bedroom makeover, coming up next! As soon as I hit publish on this post I’ll be in there cutting crown molding.

But first, I’ll take in that “fresh new laundry room” smell for another moment…

Ahhhh… smells delicious.

Hover or tap on the photos below for paint colors and links to the products used:



All of the materials, supplies, tools etc for this project were from Lowe’s and totaled under $5k, which I think is great for such a drastic transformation. I also think it’s pretty convenient to be able to get everything you need online in one order, or in my case, over a handful of trips to my Lowe’s 10 minutes away.

It feels so nice to have our first finished room, and now we’re in the habit of scheduling daily DIY time to stay on track for the rest of the house. These reveals are fun but we must remember that this is a marathon even though it’s felt like a sprint lately, and we have to enjoy the journey! Trying to stay in that mindset as we go on to the next project.

Happy October…